Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Doggie Ghost Stories for Christmas? Perhaps.

"Here Lies Fluffy

Hit By A Car

Not So Fluffy Anymore"
My epitaph for a cocker spaniel perhaps

Believe it or not, ghost stories were a tradition for Christmas in England. That explains A Christmas Carol. M.R. James also wrote a number of chilling Christmas tales as did writers like Robert Louis Stevenson and Algernon Blackwood. I have found only a few that refer to animals--dogs especially. American writers also produced some chilling tales about dogs. Whether they were specifically for the Christmas Season or not, I don't know. One is The Black Dog which may be Bierce (or not.) Ambrose Bierce did write Oil of Dog, which is black humor at its darkest. Hound of the Baskervilles is a ghost story in a way. Doyle certainly made it chilling enough.

While many might find the idea of ghost stories at Christmas sacrilegious, I am all for revisiting this tradition. With 3D monsters jumping off the screen into one's lap, maybe the younger generation just doesn't appreciate the nuance involved with telling a good ghost story.

How many of you have told a ghost story around the campfire at any time of the year? Get the kids off the Playstations and invent something for their benefit. After all, if they can slay dragons and murder zombies on the tiny screen, let's get back to mankind's biggest screen, the imagination.

Happy Holidays, and let me know if you find any cool ghost stories about dogs.

Here is a link to one ghost story by M.R. James you might like. I find his stories fascinating and disquieting. Again, Happy Holidays to all--and to all a goodnight--if you can have a goodnight after reading some of these stories.

Canon Alberic's ScrapbookFrom Wikisource

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Canon Alberic's Scrapbook (1904)

by Montague Rhodes James

From Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, 1904.

St. Bertrand de Comminges is a decayed town on the spurs of the Pyrenees, not very far from Toulouse, and still nearer to Bagnères-de-Luchon. It was the site of a bishopric until the Revolution, and has a cathedral which is visited by a certain number of tourists. In the spring of 1883 an Englishman arrived at this old-world place -- I can hardly dignify it with the name of city, for there are not a thousand inhabitants. He was a Cambridge man, who had come specially from Toulouse to see St Bertrand's Church, and had left two friends, who were less keen archaeologists than himself, in their hotel at Toulouse, under promise to join him on the following morning. Half an hour at the church would satisfy them, and all three could then pursue their journey in the direction of Auch. But our Englishman had come early on the day in question, and proposed to himself to fill a notebook and to use several dozens of plates in the process of describing and photographing every corner of the wonderful church that dominates the little hill of Comminges. In order to carry out this design satisfactorily, it was necessary to monopolize the verger of the church for the day. The verger or sacristan (I prefer the latter appellation, inaccurate as it may be) was accordingly sent for by the somewhat brusque lady who keeps the inn of the Chapeau Rouge; and when he came, the Englishman found him an unexpectedly interesting object of study. It was not in the personal appearance of the little, dry, wizened old man that the interest lay, for he was precisely like dozens of other church-guardians in France, but in a curious furtive, or rather hunted and oppressed, air which he had. He was perpetually half glancing behind him; the muscles of his back and shoulders seemed to be hunched in a continual nervous contraction, as if he were expecting every moment to find himself in the clutch of an enemy. The Englishman hardly knew whether to put him down as a man haunted by a fixed delusion, or as one oppressed by a guilty conscience, or as an unbearably henpecked husband. The probabilities, when reckoned up, certainly pointed to the last idea; but, still, the impression conveyed was that of a more formidable persecutor even than a termagant wife.

However, the Englishman (let us call him Dennistoun) was soon too deep in his notebook and too busy with his camera to give more than an occasional glance to the sacristan. Whenever he did look at him, he found him at no great distance, either huddling himself back against the wall or crouching in one of the gorgeous stalls. Dennistoun became rather fidgety after a time. Mingled suspicions that he was keeping the old man from his déjeuner, that he was regarded as likely to make away with St Bertrand's ivory crozier, or with the dusty stuffed crocodile that hangs over the font, began to torment him.

'Won't you go home?' he said at last; 'I'm quite well able to finish my notes alone; you can lock me in if you like. I shall want at least two hours more here, and it must be cold for you, isn't it?'

'Good Heavens!' said the little man, whom the suggestion seemed to throw into a state of unaccountable terror, 'such a thing cannot be thought of for a moment. Leave monsieur alone in the church? No, no; two hours, three hours, all will be the same to me. I have breakfasted, I am not at all cold, with many thanks to monsieur.'

'Very well, my little man,' quoth Dennistoun to himself.. 'you have been warned, and must take the consequences.'

Before the expiration of two hours, the stalls, the enormous dilapidated organ, the choir-screen of Bishop Jean de Mauléon, the remnants of glass and tapestry, and the objects in the treasure-chamber, had been well and truly examined; the sacristan still keeping at Dennistoun's heels, and every now and then whipping round as if he had been stung, when one or other of the strange noises that trouble a large empty building fell on his ear. Curious noises they were sometimes.

'Once,' Dennistoun said to me, 'I could have sworn I heard a thin metallic voice laughing high up in the tower. I darted an inquiring glance at my sacristan. He was white to the lips. "It is he -- that is -- it is no one; the door is locked," was all he said, and we looked at each other for a full minute.'

Another little incident puzzled Dennistoun a good deal. He was examining a large dark picture that hangs behind the altar, one of a series illustrating the miracles of St Bertrand. The composition of the picture is well-nigh indecipherable, but there is a Latin legend below, which runs thus:

Qualiter S. Bertrandus liberavit hominem quem diabolus diu volebat strangulare. [How St Bertrand delivered a man whom the Devil long sought to strangle.]

Dennistoun was turning to the sacristan with a smile and a jocular remark of some sort on his lips, but he was confounded to see the old man on his knees, gazing at the picture with the eye of a suppliant in agony, his hands clasped, and a rain of tears on his cheeks. Dennistoun naturally pretended to have noticed nothing, but the question would not away from him, 'Why should a daub of this kind affect anyone so strongly?' He seemed to himself to be getting some sort of clue to the reason of the strange look that had been puzzling him all the day: the man must be a monomaniac; but what was his monomania?

It was nearly five o'clock; the short day was drawing in, and the church began to fill with shadows, while the curious noises -- the muffled footfalls and distant talking voices that had been perceptible all day -- seemed, no doubt because of the fading light and the consequently quickened sense of hearing, to become more frequent and insistent.

The sacristan began for the first time to show signs of hurry and impatience. He heaved a sigh of relief when camera and notebook were finally packed up and stowed away, and hurriedly beckoned Dennistoun to the western door of the church, under the tower. It was time to ring the Angelus. A few pulls at the reluctant rope, and the great bell Bertrande, high in the tower, began to speak, and swung her voice up among the pines and down to the valleys, loud with mountain-streams, calling the dwellers on those lonely hills to remember and repeat the salutation of the angel to her whom he called Blessed among women. With that a profound quiet seemed to fall for the first time that day upon the little town, and Dennistoun and the sacristan went out of the church.

0n the doorstep they fell into conversation.

'Monsieur seemed to interest himself in the old choir-books in the sacristy.'

'Undoubtedly. I was going to ask you if there were a library in the town.'

'No, monsieur; perhaps there used to be one belonging to the Chapter, but it is now such a small place-' Here came a strange pause of irresolution, as it seemed; then, with a sort of plunge, he went on: 'But if monsieur is amateur des vieux livres, I have at home something that might interest him. It is not a hundred yards.'

At once all Dennistoun's cherished dreams of finding priceless manuscripts in untrodden corners of France flashed up, to die down again the next moment. It was probably a stupid missal of Plantin's printing, about 1580. Where was the likelihood that a place so near Toulouse would not have been ransacked long ago by collectors? However, it would be foolish not to go; he would reproach himself for ever after if he refused. So they set off. On the way the curious irresolution and sudden determination of the sacristan recurred to Dennistoun, and he wondered in a shamefaced way whether he was being decoyed into some purlieu to be made away with as a supposed rich Englishman. He contrived, therefore, to begin talking to his guide, and to drag in, in a rather clumsy fashion, the fact that he expected two friends to join him early the next morning. To his surprise, the announcement seemed to relieve the sacristan at once of some anxiety that oppressed him.

'That is well,' he said quite brightly -- 'that is very well. Monsieur will travel in company with his friends; they will be always near him. It is a good thing to travel thus in company -- sometimes.'

The last word appeared to be added as an afterthought, and to bring with it a relapse into gloom for the poor little man.

They were soon at the house, which was one rather larger than its neighbours, stone-built, with a shield carved over the door, the shield of Alberic de Mauléon, a collateral descendant, Dennistoun tells me, of Bishop John de Mauléon. This Alberic was a Canon of Comminges from 1680 to 1701. The upper windows of the mansion were boarded up, and the whole place bore, as does the rest of Comminges, the aspect of decaying age.

Arrived on his doorstep, the sacristan paused a moment.

'Perhaps,' he said, 'perhaps, after all, monsieur has not the time?'

'Not at all -- lots of time -- nothing to do till tomorrow. Let us see what it is you have got.'

The door was opened at this point, and a face looked out, a face younger than the sacristan's, but bearing something of the same distressing look: only here it seemed to be the mark, not so much of fear for personal safety as of acute anxiety on behalf of another. Plainly, the owner of the face was the sacristan's daughter; and, but for the expression I have described, she was a handsome girl enough. She brightened up considerably on seeing her father accompanied by an able-bodied stranger. A few remarks passed between father and daughter, of which Dennistoun only caught these words, said by the sacristan, 'He was laughing in the church,' words which were answered only by a look of terror from the girl.

But in another minute they were in the sitting-room of the house, a small, high chamber with a stone floor, full of moving shadows cast by a wood-fire that flickered on a great hearth. Something of the character of an oratory was imparted to it by a tall crucifix, which reached almost to the ceiling on one side; the figure was painted of the natural colours, the cross was black. Under this stood a chest of some age and solidity, and when a lamp had been brought, and chairs set, the sacristan went to this chest, and produced therefrom, with growing excitement and nervousness, as Dennistoun thought, a large book, wrapped in a white cloth, on which cloth a cross was embroidered in red thread. Even before the wrapping had been removed, Dennistoun began to be interested by the size and shape of the volume. 'Too large for a missal,' he thought, 'and not the shape an antiphoner; perhaps it may be something good, after all.' The next moment the book was open, and Dennistoun felt that he had at last lit upon something better than good. Before him lay a large folio, bound, perhaps, late in the late seventeenth century, with the arms of Canon Alberic de Mauléon stamped in gold on the sides. There may have been a hundred and fifty leaves of paper in the book, and on almost every one of them was fastened a leaf from an illuminated manuscript. Such a collection Dennistoun had hardly dreamed of in his wildest moments. Here were ten leaves from a copy of Genesis, illustrated with pictures, which could not be later than AD 700. Further on was a complete set of pictures from a Psalter, of English execution, of the very finest kind that the thirteenth century could produce; and, and, perhaps best of all, there were twenty leaves of uncial writing in Latin, which, as a few words seen here and there told him at once, must belong to some very early unknown patristic treatise. Could it possibly be a fragment of the copy of Papias 'On the Words of Our Lord', which was known to existed as late as the twelfth century at Nimes?(1)* In any case, his mind was made up; that book must return to Cambridge with him, even if he had to draw the whole of his balance from the bank and stay at St Bertrand till the money came. He glanced up at the sacristan to see if his face yielded any hint that the book was for sale. The sacristan was pale, and his lips were working.

'If monsieur will turn on to the end,' he said.

So monsieur turned on, meeting new treasures at every rise of a leaf; and at the end of the book he came upon two sheets of paper, of much more recent date than anything he had yet seen, which puzzled him considerably. They must be contemporary, he decided, with the unprincipled Canon Alberic, who had doubtless plundered the Chapter library of St Bertrand to form this priceless scrap-book. On the first of the paper sheets was a plan, carefully drawn and instantly recognizable by a person who knew the ground, of the south aisle and cloisters of St Bertrand's. There were curious signs looking like planetary symbols, and a few Hebrew words, in the corners; and in the north-west angle of the cloister was a cross drawn in gold paint. Below the plan were some lines of writing in Latin, which ran thus:

Responsa 12mi Dec. 1694. Interrogatum est: Inveniamne? Responsum est: invenenies. Fiamne dives? Fies. Vivamne invidendus? Vives. Moriarne in lecto meo? Ita. [Answers of the 12th of December, 1694. It was asked: Shall I find it? Answer: Thou shalt. Shall I become rich? Thou wilt. Shall I live an object of envy? Thou wilt. Shall I die in my bed? Thou wilt.]

'A good specimen of the treasure-hunter's record -- quite reminds one of Mr Minor-Canon Quatremain in Old St Paul's,' was Dennistoun's comment, and he turned the leaf.

What he then saw impressed him, as he has often told me, more than he could have conceived any drawing or picture capable of impressing him. And, though the drawing he saw is no longer in existence, there is a photograph of it (which I possess) which fully bears out that statement. The picture in question was a sepia drawing at the end of the seventeenth century, representing, one would say at first sight, a Biblical scene; for the architecture (the picture represented an interior) and the figures had that semi-classical flavour about them which the artists of two hundred years ago thought appropriate to illustrations of the Bible. On the right was a King on his throne, the throne elevated on twelve steps, a canopy overhead, lions on either side -- evidently King Solomon. He was bending forward with outstretched sceptre, in attitude of command; his face expressed horror and disgust, yet there was in it also the mark of imperious will and confident power. The left half of the picture was the strangest, however. The interest plainly centred there. On the pavement before the throne were grouped four soldiers, surrounding a crouching figure which must be described in a moment. A fifth soldier lay dead on the pavement, his neck distorted, and his eyeballs starting from his head. The four surrounding guards were looking at the King. In their faces the sentiment of horror was intensified; they seemed, in fact, only restrained from flight by their implicit trust in their master. All this terror was plainly excited by the being that crouched in their midst. I entirely despair of conveying by any words the impression which this figure makes upon anyone who looks at it. I recollect once showing the photograph of the drawing to a lecturer on morphology -- a person of, I was going to say, abnormally sane and unimaginative habits of mind. He absolutely refused to be alone for the rest of that evening, and he told me afterwards that for many nights he had not dared to put out his light before going to sleep. However, the main traits of the figure I can at least indicate. At first you saw only a mass of coarse, matted black hair; presently it was seen that this covered a body of fearful thinness, almost a skeleton, but with the muscles standing out like wires. The hands were of a dusky pallor, covered, like the body, with long, coarse hairs, and hideously taloned. The eyes, touched in with a burning yellow, had intensely black pupils, and were fixed upon the throned King with a look of beast-like hate. Imagine one of the awful bird-catching spiders of South America translated into human form, and endowed with intelligence just less than human, and you will have some faint conception of the terror inspired by this appalling effigy. One remark is universally made by those to whom I have shown the picture: 'It was drawn from the life.'

As soon as the first shock of his irresistible fright had subsided, Dennistoun stole a look at his hosts. The sacristan's hands were pressed upon his eyes; his daughter, looking up at the cross on the wall, was telling her beads feverishly.

At last the question was asked, 'Is this book for sale?'

There was the same hesitation, the same plunge of determination that he had noticed before, and then came the welcome answer, 'If monsieur pleases.'

'How much do you ask for it?

'I will take two hundred and fifty francs.'

This was confounding. Even a collector's conscience is sometimes stirred, and Dennistoun's conscience was tenderer than a collector's.

'My good man!' he said again and again, 'your book is worth far more than two hundred and fifty francs, I assure you -- far more.'

But the answer did not vary: 'I will take two hundred and fifty francs, not more.'

There was really no possibility of refusing such a chance. The money was paid, the receipt signed, a glass of wine drunk over the transaction, and then the sacristan seemed to become a new man. He stood upright, he ceased to throw those suspicious glances behind him, he actually laughed or tried to laugh. Dennistoun rose to go.

'I shall have the honour of accompanying monsieur to his hotel?' said the sacristan.

'Oh no, thanks! it isn't a hundred yards. I know the way perfectly, and there is a moon.'

The offer was pressed three or four times, and refused as often.

'Then, monsieur will summon me if -- if he finds occasion; he will keep the middle of the road, the sides are so rough.'

'Certainly, certainly,' said Dennistoun, who was impatient to examine his prize by himself; and he stepped out into the passage with his book under his arm.

Here he was met by the daughter; she, it appeared, was anxious to do a business on her own account; perhaps, like Gehazi, to 'take somewhat' from the foreigner whom her father had spared.

'A silver crucifix and chain for the neck; monsieur would perhaps be good enough to accept it?'

Well, really, Dennistoun hadn't much use for these things. What mademoiselle want for it?

'Nothing -- nothing in the world. Monsieur is more than welcome to it.'

The tone in which this and much more was said was unmistakably genuine, so that Dennistoun was reduced to profuse thanks, and submitted to have the chain put round his neck. It really seemed as if he had rendered the father and daughter some service which they hardly knew how to repay. As he set off with his book they stood at the door looking after him, and they were still looking when he waved them a last good night from the steps of the Chapeau Rouge.

Dinner was over, and Dennistoun was in his bedroom, shut up alone with his acquisition. The landlady had manifested a particular interest in him since he had told her that he had paid a visit to the sacristan and bought an old book from him. He thought, too, that he had heard a hurried dialogue between her and the said sacristan in the passage outside the salle à manger; some words to the effect that 'Pierre and Bertrand would be sleeping in the house' had closed the conversation.

All this time a growing feeling of discomfort had been creeping over him -- nervous reaction, perhaps, after the delight of his discovery. Whatever it was, it resulted in a conviction that there was someone behind him, and that he was far more comfortable with his back to the wall. All this, of course, weighed light in the balance as against the obvious value of the collection he had acquired. And now, as I said, he was alone in his bedroom, taking stock of Canon Alberic's treasures, in which every moment revealed something more charming.

'Bless Canon Alberic!' said Dennistoun, who had an inveterate habit of talking to himself. 'I wonder where he is now? Dear me! I wish that landlady would learn to laugh in a more cheering manner; it makes one feel as if there was someone dead in the house. Half a pipe more, did you say? I think perhaps you are right. I wonder what that crucifix is that the young woman insisted on giving me? Last century, I suppose. Yes, probably. It is rather a nuisance of a thing to have round one's neck -- just too heavy. Most likely her father has been wearing it for years. I think I might give it a clean up before I put it away.'

He had taken the crucifix off, and laid it on the table, when his attention, was caught by an object lying on the red cloth just by his left elbow. Two or three ideas of what it might be flitted through his brain with their own incalculable quickness.

'A penwiper? No, no such thing in the house. A rat? No, too black. A large spider?, I trust to goodness not -- no. Good God! a hand like the hand in that picture!'

In another infinitesimal flash he had taken it in. Pale, dusky skin, covering nothing but bones and tendons of appalling strength; coarse black hairs, longer than ever grew on a human hand; nails rising from the ends of the fingers and curving sharply down and forward, grey, horny and wrinkled.

He flew out of his chair with deadly, inconceivable terror clutching at his heart. The shape, whose left hand rested on the table, was rising to a standing posture behind his seat, its right hand crooked above his scalp. There was black and tattered drapery about it; the coarse hair covered it as in the drawing. The lower jaw was thin -- what can I call it? -- shallow, like a beast's; teeth showed behind the black lips; there was no nose; the eyes, of a fiery yellow, against which the pupils showed black and intense, and the exulting hate and thirst to destroy life which shone there, were the most horrifying features in the whole vision. There was intelligence of a kind in them -- intelligence beyond that of a beast, below that of a man.

The feelings which this horror stirred in Dennistoun were the intensest physical fear and the most profound mental loathing. What did he do? What could he do? He has never been quite certain what words he said, but he knows that he spoke, that he grasped blindly at the silver crucifix, that he was conscious of a movement towards him on the part of the demon, and that he screamed with the voice of an animal in hideous pain.

Pierre and Bertrand, the two sturdy little serving-men, who rushed in, saw nothing, but felt themselves thrust aside by something that passed out between them, and found Dennistoun in a swoon. They sat up with him that night, and his two friends were at St Bertrand by nine o'clock next morning. He himself, though still shaken and nervous, was almost himself by that time, and his story found credence with them, though not until they had seen the drawing and talked with the sacristan.

Almost at dawn the little man had come to the inn on some pretence, and had listened with the deepest interest to the story retailed by the landlady. He showed no surprise.

'It is he -- it is he! I have seen him myself,' was his only comment; and to questionings but one reply was vouchsafed: 'Deux fois je 1'ai vu; mille fois je 1'ai senti.' He would tell them nothing of the provenance of the book, nor any details of his experiences. 'I shall soon sleep, and my rest will be sweet. Why should you trouble me?' he said.(2)

We shall never know what he or Canon Alberic de Mauléon suffered. At the back of that fateful drawing were some lines of writing which may supposed to throw light on the situation:

Contradictio Salomonis cum demonio noctumo.

Albericus de Mauleone delineavit.

V. Deus in adiutorium. Ps. Qui habitat.

Sancte Bertrande, demoniorum effugator, intercede pro me miserrimo.

Primum uidi nocte 12mi Dec. 1694: uidebo mox

ultimum. Peccaui et passus sum, plura adhuc

passurus. Dec. 29, 1701.(3)

I have never quite understood what was Dennistoun's view of the events I have narrated. He quoted to me once a text from Ecclesiasticus:'Some spirits there be that are created for vengeance, and in their fury lay on sore strokes.' On another occasion he said: 'Isaiah was a very sensible man; doesn't he say something about night monsters living in the ruins of Babylon? These things are rather beyond us at present.'

Another confidence of his impressed me rather, and I sympathized with it. We had been, last year, to Comminges, to see Canon Alberic's tomb. It is a great marble erection with an effigy of the Canon in a large wig and soutane, and an elaborate eulogy of his learning below. I saw Denniston talking for some time with the Vicar of St Bertrand's, and as we drove away he said to me: 'I hope it isn't wrong: you know I am a Presbyterian -- but I -- I believe there will be "saying of Mass and singing of dirges" for Alberic de Mauléon's rest.' Then he added, with a touch of the Northern British in his tone, 'I had no notion they came so dear.'

The book is in the Wentworth Collection at Cambridge. The drawing was photographed and then burnt by Dennistoun on the day when he left Comminges on the occasion of his first visit.


1. We now know that these leaves did contain a considerable fragment of that work, if not of that actual copy of it.

2. He died that summer; his daughter married, and settled at St Papoul. She never understood the circumstances of her father's 'obsession'.

3. i.e., The dispute of Solomon with a demon of the night. Drawn by Alberic de Mauléon. Versicle. O Lord, make haste to help me. Psalm. Whoso dwelleth (xci).

Saint Bertrand, who puttest devils to flight, pray for me most unhappy. I saw it first on the night of Dec. 12, 1694: soon I shall see it for the last time. I have sinned and suffered, and have more to suffer yet. Dec. 29, 1701.

The 'Gallia Christiana' gives the date of the Canon's death as December 31, 1701, 'in bed, of a sudden seizure.' Details of this kind are not common in the great work of the Sammarthani.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

If You Knew Me When-- Or Now. I Confess. And a short story unseen by most of humankind

All these posts have to have some "dog" stuff in them. This one will have even less than usual.
Here's a picture of my dog, Lulu looking longingly out the window wanting to run off and play.
This reminds me of the speech Dorthy gives near the end of the movie "The Wizard of Oz." The balloon has flown away without her, and she worries that she may never see Kansas again. She says something about how if she ever goes looking for her heart's desire, she shouldn't look any farther than her own back door. Do you hear that Lulu?

I never really got it either.

I am a weird sort of guy. I suppose I always have been. The other night, while watching "Bridesmaids" I found the tears running down my face when the rotund sister of the groom was trying to get the main character to fight against her depression. These tears happen to me when I watch movies about friends or movie-type parents or wives and husbands.
I'm still concerned what people think of me. I still care what people from high school think of me. Sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees.

So here's my confession. I'm all right. In fact I'm quite well. I have a wife who loves me, who is beautiful, and who is more wonderful than I deserve. My kids are great, educated, and happily married. My grandkids are fabulous, smart, and beautiful. My granddaughter Anika has travelled with us to Italy, Paris, London, and Ireland--not to mention Hawaii. My one-year-old granddaughter spent Thanksgiving on the westside of Oahu last year. I've been lucky enough to travel, our bills get paid, and while I have a few more aches and pains than some folks, I suffer a lot less than others. I live in this wonderful area, where there's lots of trees and deer and lizards and flowers. Coyotes in the hills. Open space. Horses.

As a kid, I often felt that no one really stood up for me. Okay, Mom wasn't a cookies and milk type and I rarely saw my dad. Nonetheless, I did have some people in my corner. Both sets of my grandparents doted on me, and my maternal grandparents took me in.

I was luckier than that though. In my high school years, I ran away like once a year. Jackie Landis' parents took me in one time, and even braved the wrath of my mother. They did it for no other reason that I was friends with their son and daughter. Thank you. That was really cool.

And my Aunt Mary and Uncle Tony took me in for a little while when I was as confused as I could be, and without another place to go. Thank you also. Aunt Mary, you are the best aunt ever. I thought it then, and I think it now.

So what's this confession all about? Is it because I still like old loved-and-lost songs? I think that's a part of it. Another part is because I have recently come across old friends from the old days again. It first happened after our 20 year high school reunion. Then in June of this year--or was it July--there was another reunion of our high school class. After the first one, somehow Jackie Landis and I found each others' address. This time I heard from Shelley Bridgman. I also heard from Ron Walashek again. The only other person I know from those days is John Belik. Eons ago he made me a surfboard, and I hooked up with him probably seven years ago in Maui for a few hours.

I always go all weird when it comes to high school friends. In a way, it was the best of times for me--and the worst. I know, I know, but I'm not going to explain it. Which brings us back to that 20 year high school reunion.

Late one night, from that reunion, Ron Walashek called me on the phone. He woke me out of a sound sleep. It was cool and strange. We got together once after that. Well, you know how that stuff goes. Last time I talked with him was after the '89 quake up here.

Ron was probably my best friend in high school. He was the only guy that got me anyway. So again, he called--and then I wrote this story, which got published in this now-defunct magazine out of Chicago. I put it here because--well maybe it's good. It all started with that phone call.

Thanks to all the people who liked me then, and still remember me. I miss you all, but I'm doing well.


One night she called. Tim, asleep again, answered on the second ring. He hadn't spoken to Deidre for twenty years.

"Imagine us living in the same place all these years and not bumping into each other," she said.

"It's a big city," he said.

"I didn't get up the nerve to call until tonight. I was out with some friends and I drank too much wine so I called. Why weren't you at the reunion?"

"I didn't have the money." He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "I'm unemployed."

"If there was one person I wanted to see there it was you," she said.

He didn't know what to say so he said nothing.

Deidre filled the silence. She said she was widowed "Imagine, at thirty-six," and overworked trying to care for her husband's business and lonely sometimes. She talked about high school, a time inTim's life he would just as soon forget. At the end of the call, she insisted they meet for lunch Wednesday. "My treat," she said. "It'll give me a chance to pay you back."

"You don't need to pay me back," he said.

But she insisted.

On Wednesday morning when the alarm rang, Tim reset it and went back to sleep. The alarm rang again and he reset it. It rang again and he stayed in bed checking the clock every minute or so. He thought, I'll lay here just one more minute, but he dozed and didn't rise for ten more minutes. When he finally got out of bed he had to rush around to get ready. He showered, and dressed in his navy-blue blazer with the frayed pocket where he always kept his big ring of keys and his power-tie with the grease stain on it. They were the only decent clothes he had left. He wore them to job interviews, dinners, weddings, funerals, and any other occasion that might arise.

He chased and caught a streetcar two minutes after he left his Sunset district studio. Somehow, Tim arrived downtown on time. He sat in the lobby of the hotel where he was to meet Deidre, yawning.

She arrived twenty minutes late. When she walked in, he recognized her right away. She hadn't changed much. Something about the luminescence of the pearls and the cashmere next to her smotth, unlined skin made her look younger than he hoped she'd look. Tim wondered if she'd had plastic surgery. He thought, if he were rich and handsome he'd want to be seen with a woman like her. But being seen with her now would only make him feel inadequate. His legs felt like jelly. He panicked as he looked around for an exit--but too late--she'd spotted him.

"Tim?" she said as she approached.

"Deidre?" he said, trying for nonchalance.

"Good to see you," she said. "You still look the same."

"And you still look like a kid," he said.

"If only it were true." She took him by the arm. On the way to the elevator to the restaurant she jabbered all the while about traffic and business calls. "I really know nothing about business," she said.

At the entrance to the restaurant, the maitre d' addressed her as Mrs. St. Clair. "If Mrs. St. Clair and the gentleman will follow me," he said.

Tim hoped they wouldn't be seated under the massive chandelier. Wouldn't want to be under that thing when the next big quake hit. The maitre d' seated them at a table overlooking the garden-court.

The menus came. While Tim tried to decide what to order, she talked about problems involving "a property in Monterey."

He hoped she wouldn't forget her promise to buy the lunch. Of course, he'd feign an offer to buy, that was only fair.

"I'll have the chicken," she said when the waiter came for their order.

"The chicken breast with the brandy and artichokes?" the waiter asked.

"No, no." She yanked open the menu and jabbed at it with her finger. "This," she said.

"The baked?" the waiter asked.


Tim ordered a steak.

"What kind of wine should we have?" Deidre said, passing him the wine list.

"None for me," Tim said.

"Why not?" She squinted at him as if this were some sort of trickery.

"I'm a recovering alcoholic."

"Oh." There was a moment's silence. "I didn't know. Do you mind if I have wine? Would it bother you?"

"Not at all," Tim lied.

She opened the list and pointed.

After the waiter left she said, "So, after all these years here we are."

"Here we are," Tim said.

She talked.

Tim only half-listened. He could feel the sweat soaking the back of his shirt. It seemed difficult to concentrate on what she was saying.

When the wine came, Deidre made a toast. "To old friends," she said.

"Skoal," Tim said and raised his glass of water with lemon. After he drank he picked up the bottle of wine and read the label.

During lunch, Deidre did most of the talking. She picked at her chicken. Every time the waiter passed he refilled her wine glass. The more she drank the less she talked about business and the more she talked about high school. Tim chewed his steak and nodded at the appropriate times. The food was good, even if he didn't know who was paying for it.

While Tim picked apart a pear tart, Deidre asked, "Remember that night at Buddy Burgers? You really saved my skin."

"I didn't save your skin, but I remember."

At the fast food joint where Tim worked, Robert Rossi, Deidre's boyfriend had punched Deidre in the face. Tim rushed out from behind the counter swinging the metal bar they used to close off the rear entrance at night, and chased Robert out of the place. It was his only act of heroism. Then Tim gave the other workers, Carlos and Bill Peters, the rest of the night off. He closed up the restaurant one hour early, and drove Deidre home. He lost his job for the act of chivalry. On top of that, Robert Rossi had made the last few weeks of Tim's senior year hell.

"What a night," Deidre said while the waiter poured the last of the merlot into her glass.

That night, in the car, she's leaned against the passenger's side door in her off-the-shoulder, forest green formal. He could smell her perfume mixed with the odor of beer. Even with the mascara running down her face and a thick, cut lip, he still thought she was beautiful. For a moment, Tim thought about pulling over and trying to comfort her. Imagine what she would've told her friends if he'd tried to kiss her or something.

"You lost you job," she said as she set the empty wine glass on the table.

"It was a lousy job anyway." Since then there were more lost jobs, a bankruptcy and a divorce.

"And here we are," she said.

"Here we are," he repeated.

She reached across the table and took his hand. "Twenty years," she said.

Deidre paid for the lunch with her American Express. Until the waiter brought the receipt, Tim continued to protest, if weakly.

"I won't hear of it," she said.

Tim stood.

Deidre stood and staggered. "Whoops," she said. "I'm afraid I've had too much to drink."

"How are you getting home?" he asked.

"Will you drive me?" she said and leaned against him. "My car is here in the garage."

When the valet brought Deidre's Cadillac, he handed Tim the keys. A shiver coursed through Tim. He felt like he held her whole life in his hands.

She lived in Pacific Heights in an apartment building. When they arrived, she pointed the automatic garage door opener at the garage door. She held the device as if she hadn't done the same thing a thousand times and aimed with one eye closed.

Tim parked.

She said, "Here we are. You'll come up, of course."

"I guess."

As they walked to the elevator, she took his arm. "I moved out of the house on Franklin shortly after Fred died. That was his house--his family's. He had adult children from a previous marriage and when they started looking at me funny, I got out. I still kept our house in Carmel, though. Maybe you can see it sometime."

Her apartment took up the entire sixth floor. Tim unlocked the front door. They entered and Deidre kicked off her shoes.

"Can I get you something?" she asked.

"I'm stuffed," he said.

"Well, I'm going to have another glass of wine. Go sit." She pointed toward the living room. She left for what he imagined was the kitchen.

Tim slipped Deidre's keys into his pocket with the others.

The apartment smelled of furniture wax. The living room was all blond wood, antiques, paintings, and sculptures. It looked more like an art gallery than a residence. There was an uncluttered, almost unnatural order to the place. He sat on the sofa.

Deidre walked into the living room. One hand held the glass she was drinking from and the other carried a bottle of wine. Deidre put the bottle on the coffee table. She sat next to him.

"Sure I can't get you anything?" she asked.


She sipped her wine then set her glass down. When she pulled her feet up on the sofa, it brought her closer to him. "So, tell me about yourself," she said.

He could feel her breath on his cheek. "Not much to tell," he said, "I'm trying to get my life together."

"Do you need work?"

"I'm okay," Tim said. "I've got some possibilities."

"Because if you need a job, Fred's business always needs good people. Are you interested?"

"Maybe I should go." He stood, but she grabbed his hand . "Sit," she said. "I'm not trying to insult you. I just want to help."

Tim sat.

She didn't let go of his hand. "I don't think you understand how you saved me that night. I was always expected to be so perfect."

Tim stared at the floor. Deidre leaned into him, kissed him on the cheek and hugged him. He didn't hug back but she held on anyway for a minute. When she broke the hug she said, "Don't you like me?"

He felt shaky suddenly. He didn't know if this was a come-on or not, so he said of course he liked her--why wouldn't he?

"You're not gay or anything?" she asked. "I mean it's all right if you are, but I'm just wondering if I'm wasting my time..."

"No," he said. He wasn't sure if he wanted to be the subject of a what-would've-happened-if-you-would've-kissed-me experiment. Deidre must have sensed his confusion because she returned to small talk and drinking her wine.

Before Tim left that day, Deidre made him promise to come back to the apartment Sunday night for dinner. She told him to think about the job. St. Clair Properties really could use someone and if he wanted, they would discuss it then. He promised he would think it over. At the door, she kissed him, on the lips this time.

Tim walked down Van Ness, headed for a locksmith near Broadway. After he had copies of all of Deidre's keys made, he walked back to her apartment. She rang him in. He returned her keys and apologized for his absentmindedness.

She grinned. "Come in for awhile," she said.

"I have to get home."

"Don't forget Sunday," she said, then kissed him.

Tim took a bus back home and went to bed.

Thursday, Tim called Deidre and got her answering machine. He took a bus then walked to her apartment building. No one was in the lobby. He rang her apartment. When he got no answer, he let himself in with the key. After he rode the elevator to her floor, Tim entered the apartment.

It felt like this every time he went back. There was a thrill to it--a shiver. His heart always seemed to skip when he first entered. He always felt light-headed. His skin felt cool and hot at the same time. It had felt the same when he went back to Buddy Burgers and to what used to be his house after the divorce and in the early morning hours when he sneaked into all the offices where he'd worked using the keys he always copied.

Tim walked into Deidre's bedrooom. He looked in her closet hoping to find the same forest-green formal she wore that night in high school when he drove her home. Instead, he found the cashmere sweater and skirt she'd worn on Wednesday. Tim rubbed it against his cheek. It felt soft and smelled of her perfume. Her clothes smelled like he remembered. That was a part of her appeal even back in high school, the scent of her as she passed in the hall. Even then he would breathe in her almost ethereal tropical flower scent and sigh sometimes as she passed.

He went through her drawers, took a pair of her panties and rubbed them between his fingers. He imagined the garment close to her skin. The waistband would leave a reddish mark around her waist. Maybe someday he would get to see that mark and kiss it until the redness disappeared to pinkness and the pinkness to pale white. That night back in high school--he'd wanted to kiss the hurt away. That was all, just kiss the hurt away.

Tim replaced the panties, straightened the drawer, then closed it. He got onto the bed. The bedspread felt cool on his back. He looked at his watch and decided to stay only ten more minutes. Tim closed his eyes. The whole room smelled of her. It felt of her. He could imagine being with her. The sensation of Deidre made him dizzy and drained his strength. He could stay on the bed forever. Anxious, again he checked his watch. Nine more minutes. He sighed as he curled up and reclosed his eyes. Time was passing very slowly, he thought. Sometimes, at the best of times, each minute seemed very long indeed. He inhaled her scent from the bedspread and closed his eyes. Before he fell to sleep, he imagined he could feel Deidre's lips brushing his cheek.###

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Should Be Learning-- Stay tuned for more here

There's more on this subject to come. I am at Adult School. It's sort of daycare for adults and I learn stuff that keeps me out of trouble and makes me have to wake up usually at a decent hour. Actually I quite enjoy it. Love the Power Point application, and Word. I am not so keen on Excel and Access.
The point is I am supposed to be making myself employable. So instead, I sit here working on my blog.
The original purpose of this space was to produce pictures like this. Something kind of fun. Never figured it wouldn't take off, but it didn't. So then I started to pontificate. Shame on me. But I won't stop now. I'm used to it.

Ah, I notice I have another fan. Hip-hip-hooray! We're up to 11. That's not enough I know because I have a few detractors who have brought it up. Nonetheless, we're not bailing.
Soon I hope to start work on another blog. I thinking of calling it "Positive Space."
 If I know about one subject, it is about melancholy (depression.) I swear I have battled it since I was in fifth grade. I'm hoping to create a space where people who are-- we'll stick with "melancholy" can put in their two cents in an effort to help others. If there's something I have learned it is that people who are in trouble need a project of some sort in order to feel there is some accomplishment in their life. I am not trying to be saintly nor condescending, but if people just realize that they can help others with the same problems, well, it's a start, isn't it?

It all started with this "Success Poem" which I read in a typing test in my daycare. Check it out.

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

--- inaccurately attributed to

Ralph Waldo Emerson 
Poor Ralph Waldo Emerson didn't actually write this. Actually lucky for him he gets credit for it. Actually I wrote "Catcher in the Rye." Inaccurately attribute that one to me.

I have more on this topic--not the "Catcher in the Rye" thing but on this blog and the blog I want to start soon.
Let me know what you think. As always, Lulu my dog, all my family dogs, and I wish you well. Have a nice Thanksgiving everyone.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Warning: These Dogs Are Manipulating You!

I'm always amazed at how prevalent dogs are in advertising. Puppies are used to draw one kind of response; Boston Terriers another; Great Danes are often laying about the furniture, but aren't they just too cute about it.

Our pets are used as a sort of emotional shorthand. I don't necessarily mind this manipulation, but certainly I'm beginning to wonder if the public is capable of processing real emotions in this age of symbols.

You can bet advertisers are not often going to show a family of whelping puppies and the sagging teats of the mother dog. Reality ruins the symbolism.

I'm pretty sure the sides in the pit bull debate can be drawn up pretty easily. Let's see: I'll bet 98% of Hells Angels think pit bulls are pretty cool. Cat owners hate them. That guy down the street who lets his dog run the neighborhood, he likes pit bulls too-- at least he thinks there shouldn't be any sort of a ban on them. Dogs are often a symbol of rebellion or freedom for some folks.

What's it all mean?

Take Ren and Stimpy. The sheer brilliance of those characters wasn't just the shaking Ren and the Stimpy with the filthy cat box. Actually those characters were fleshed out quite well. Ren was portrayed as a nihilistic intellectual, while Stimpy was more dog than cat. Just imagine if Stimpy had been drawn and acted like an aloof feline that we often see. The show never would have made it to air. But make Stimpy kind of a dope, give him the voice of Larry from The Three Stooges and suddenly the show was a can't miss for all the repressed adolescents in America.

But the manipulation of your feelings isn't as sophisticated as the above-mentioned cat and dog cartoon. We are victims of the idea that everything can be represented quickly and easily by a word, a sound byte, a catchphrase, or a photo or video clip. Are we loosing the ability to think?

Your detergent can make your clothes whiter than white, but heaven forbid that the same detergent has "white power."

I might think Sarah Palin is a bit of an idiot for her reliance weaving homespun rhetoric into the conversation instead of discussing the issues. Nonetheless, many people would fault President Obama for his rhetorical intellectualism. Neither politician seems to have an answer to the malaise that has overtaken this country. However you see it, these people are symbols. It's easy to agree or disagree with a symbol. It's not so easy to discern the shades of gray in their characters or their political stances.

I can't use the N-word, but I can't use niggardly either. By the way, the words are from two totally different origins-- of course you knew that.

Gay Marriage.
Universal Health Care.
Immigration Reform.
Affirmative Action.
The Cat Lady

Yippee! I've got an opinion on all of them. But the words themselves shouldn't dictate the discussion. Even putting a "No" in front of some of the words doesn't necessarily define the debate.

No Gay Marriage
No Universal Health Care might explain one's feelings, but No Immigration Reform might mean that things should remain the same or that the reforms should be more restrictive.

I suppose a crusade to think more before we react is needed. Oh my! Did I say "crusade?" Sorry, so sorry.

verb /kro͞oˈsād/ 
crusaded, past participle; crusaded, past tense; crusades, 3rd person singular present; crusading, present participle
  1. Lead or take part in an energetic and organized campaign concerning a social, political, or religious issue
    • - he crusaded against gambling in the 1950s
How does The Cat Lady fit in with the other words? Come on, how evocative are those three words?

It's all just so easy to manipulate people. Just think about it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pit Bulls Do Kill

A few weeks ago, a pregnant woman in Pacifica, California was mauled and killed by her male pit bull.

I have great esteem for persons who adopt animals from shelters. I'm not sure if the dog that killed this woman was from a shelter. It doesn't really matter. The woman's trust was misplaced. I'm sure this poor woman and her husband had endless stories about how loving and tame this dog acted-- before this tragedy.

I know, that no matter what, people will come out of the woodwork, praising their pit bull/pit bull mix animals for their loyalty and calm demeanor. "This is another attack on the breed," they'll say. "You know how many pit bulls there are that are great, friendly dogs? It's not the dog's fault, it's the owner."

Let's stop. It is the breed. Pit bulls are the most likely breed of animal to be involved in fatal dog attacks on humans. I can offer four cases of lethal pit bull attacks in the SF Bay Area alone. A thirteen year old boy was attacked in his basement in San Francisco by a pit bull and died. Two toddlers that I know of have been killed in the Bay Area by pit bulls. And finally, there is the case of the pregnant woman most recently. I won't count the little East Bay kid maimed and disfigured by a pit bull-- he didn't die but only suffered horribly.

I know people will despise me for questioning their right to own these animals that are the equivalents of loaded guns. It's the American way, and I've already been the subject of hate posts when I questioned the egos of people who own large, dangerous breeds.

Honestly, I think most people who feel they are capable of owning pit bulls without trouble (attacks on other dogs; attacks on humans; pits running loose in the neighborhood after escaping either from their owners or their yards) aren't capable. Isn't part of the mystique of owning a bad ass dog the fact that the dog is a bad ass? You ever see a t-shirt with a cocker spaniel snarling and looking like a tank ready to attack? These shirts are owned by pit bull owners.

I have a pit bull living across the street from me. He runs loose sometimes. Now I have to worry about my own dog in her own yard.

There are some towns and counties that insist that all pit bulls be spayed or neutered. I agree with that. Only reputable, licensed breeders should be allowed to own pit bulls for breeding. I think other laws could be enacted that might stem some of the problems. Pit bulls that attack humans should be destroyed. Period. Pit bulls that kill other dogs should be destroyed. Period. Any dog that has fought and been rescued should be spayed or neutered. Any pit from a shelter should be spayed or neutered. A two strike law for any pit bull that attacks other animals, dogs, cats, etc. should be enacted. Perhaps a three strike law for pits that run loose should also be on the books.

Here's the thing. I think pit bulls as a breed have been raised for their agressiveness. This is dangerous. Dog fighters and misguided owners have bred these dogs not for their tameness, but for their fearsomeness. These traits might be a good thing when these dogs fought larger creatures in the old days, but not now. It's a crap shoot today. If a pit reverts to its primal instincts, someone is going to get hurt. That's not right or fair to other dog owners or dogs.

I saw a segment on a television show about a breeder of foxes in Eastern Europe. This breeder started treating some of his foxes like pets. Within one generation, these foxes started looking and acting more like domestic dogs. Imagine. One generation. Pit bulls bred for friendliness and calmness could be changed as a breed fairly quickly.

We need to stop being naive and protect ourselves and our dogs. Pit bulls need to change. We don't need these dogs to be killers anymore.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

This Blog Is Sticking to Its Guns-- With Apologies to Philip Levine

It's wonderful how I blog
I've got ivory-tower scruples
I will not kow-tow to the lure
of readers who read my every tweek

To the market, I will not bow
I'll not mention Lady Gaga
Sir Elton John
or type with my pudgy fingers

Of X-Men or X-Girls
Of Britney or Living Forever and Ever
Maintaining your beauty
or babies with IQs like Einstein

Oh, I dream of readers
Of steady eyes fastened to the screens
for fear they might miss
The latest greatest story about our Kate

You might think I'll cave
And drum upon the keys the tale
of Casey Anthony
and the Prince of Greece

discovering the fountain of money
or world famous freaks
to hook a reader by his teeth
I write about a dog. Yes. This blog.

With sincere apologies to Philip Levine
Check out his poem
Animals are Passing From Our Lives.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Enjoy the Fourth-- Leave Your Pets Inside

Happy Birthday U.S.A.

We love the Fourth of July. Our pets-- not so much. Remember, most pets get pretty skittish about fireworks. My dog freaks even at the explosions from the display five miles away. A few firecrackers can make life miserable for your pets.

There's more than a few sick humans out there who might hurt your cat or dog with fireworks. Don't let your animal be a victim. Keep them inside as much as possible. If your neighborhood is anything like mine, the explosions start a day or two before the holiday, and last a day or two after.

I just heard a news story last night about a "celebration" a year or so ago at Dolores Park in San Francisco. Someone decided to start tossing M-80s (is that what they're called?) into the crowd. It cost a girl one finger, the use of a couple of others, and countless surgeries. Let's be safe this Fourth. Protect your animals, protect yourself.

Remember, most places bottle rockets, firecrackers, M-80's, etc. are illegal. When you cut your kid loose with a string of firecrackers at the very least it's against the law. It may be dangerous, and it certainly sets a bad example.

Have a safe holiday.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pablo Picasso the artist-- and Rover the Dog

I remember the names of all my dogs and their personalities. My memory of my old classmates from high school is a little hazy though. So there is a class reunion going on for my high school next month, and a classmate of mine, Shelley friended me on Facebook.

Shelley and I were never an item. She's definitely a dish, even now-- but something always seemed to interfere with spending time with her back then. Once I went to see her in my old Corvair. The cops gave me a ticket because my engine was smoking so bad. I had to drive the car home and get it off the road. Another time I saw her I was on the verge of quitting college, leaving home, and moving from San Diego to San Francisco. It all worked out. I've got a great family and a good life.

Last year I lost my job at the US Postal Service. I hated the Postal Service and my job. I had no respect for the management and they had no respect for me. Because of an on-the-job injury, I couldn't carry mail, so they booted me out of the office job they'd created for me. Employing me might have led to the insolvency of the USPS. Heaven forbid.

Being let go from a crappy job might be worse than losing a good one. When I lost my numb skull job, I wondered just how pathetic I had become. Depression set in. I slept, played Farmville, and sat in my hot tub and smoked cigars. I didn't do much even though I had a lot of time. I just marked time, and at near 60, my swagger disappeared. (I've always been way too needy I suppose.)

Consequently, I have begun to examine just what I have accomplished in my life. I admit to all the excesses of youth and more than my share of selfishness. But have I left anything of value?

I'm going to try to tie this all together now. My constant readers, all three of you, are aware of the leaps I take in these blogs. I'm asking you to accept another leap.

My wife and I went to see a Picasso exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco last Sunday. I am not a fan of Picasso. I wasn't keen on him before the exhibit, and am even less impressed now. I like art. I love impressionist art. I love Renaissance art. I find Picasso's art mean-spirited and usually ugly. I know his reputation. I know his imprint upon modern art. He just angers me.

So, Picasso from Heaven can look down and feel fulfilled because he created I suppose.

I don't know what I've left to speak for myself. Some short stories, articles, some good feelings and love. I never cured cancer or volunteered at a soup kitchen.

I like Nabokov, who wrote the novel "Lolita." It is a brilliant novel, as are his other works. But despite all his brilliance, he will be known mostly as the guy who wrote about the love of an older man for a pre-teen girl. Does he get a pass to Heaven?

Is Larry Flynt accomplished because of his fight for journalistic freedom?

When he was alive, did J.D. Salinger feel accomplished, or did he wonder if the Great American Novel and a couple of handfuls of short stories really were all he could have done with his talent?

The tennis player, Bjorn Borg made his biggest splash in life by the age of 21. It's been all downhill for him since then.

I don't have the answers to the questions I might be asking. I wish I did.

I remember my dogs. They came through for me and others.

I remember Shelley from high school. And Jackie Landis and Ron Walashek and Karen Riggs and John Belik. Something special about them made an imprint on my feeble memory.

Some of these people remember me. I hope they judge me favorably. I guess that's the best one can wish for.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bullying Dog Style-- Google's Ad Campaign

I don't bully-- I sleep and watch tv.

So, Google has an ad campaign on television now that is about bullying-- especially the bullying of gay persons. In my effort to at least mention dogs in each of these posts, I'd like to tell you about my dog, (now deceased) Maurice.

Early on, when we moved to the house where we live now, the dog next door came under the fence and chewed up Maurice. He had open wounds, needed stitches, and was altogether in a bad way. Maurice was a lab mix, on the small side-- not a fighter at all, even though he was a trifle grumpy at times.

After the mauling, while Maurice made a full recovery, but he could not be around loose dogs without taking grief. Some fear component in him made itself apparent to the dogs around, and running loose on a beach for example, led to him being bitten. I felt bad for him. He never had problems around dogs before, and here he was, suddenly a target.

I'd been the target of bullying now and again. It's pretty awful. I suppose a time or two as a teen, I'd even bullied some myself. I remember fighting some guy at the mall just because he was there. He cut my eyelid with his fingernail during the fight. I bleed like a stuck pig. Served me right. The next year at school I apologized to this guy for my being such an ass. That apology was probably as enlightened as I ever was as a teenager.

Bullying is a rotten, demeaning, miserable thing. You'd be surprised at my politics, so don't pigeon-hole me quite yet. I have a problem with gay politics, as much as I have a problem with Rush Limbaugh. Everyone gets bullied in high school. Every group has to endure bullying. That doesn't make it right. It doesn't make it easier for gay people, or any other group. It doesn't build toughness. It doesn't build character. It leads to heartbreak, depression, and even suicide.

Some people just don't want to fight. They don't want to defend themselves, or their characters just because they are perceived as different. Again, bullying does not build character.

There's a show on MTV2 called "Bully Beatdown." People who are the subject of bullying send an appeal to the show in an effort to stop their suffering. Always the bullies are totally deluded. They've broken the arms of the victims, thrown them down stairs, caused damages to eyes, skulls, and all limbs. Often they feel they are teaching their victims a lesson by toughening-up the always smaller, less aggressive, and usually unsuspecting victims.

A guy named Mayhem hosts the show. He was a mixed martial arts fighter who had won over thirty matches. He is a bad ass, and he had been bullied himself as a kid. Mayhem brings in one of his fighters to challenge the bully in the "cage." The deluded bully always thinks he's going to beat up the mixed martial arts professional, and if he can, he can win up to $10,000. I've seen some pretty bad ass bullies on that show. Even when they manage to win any of the money in the two rounds of fighting, they usually pay a heavy price in damage to their bodies. And always, the beating they take leads to an apology to the people they have bullied. Funny what changes a couple of serious kicks to the liver and minor concussions can bring about.

Unfortunately, when the bully gets his ass kicked on the show, it is again-- bullying. On one show, Mayhem, who is usually just a host, actually fights the bully himself. I've never seen anyone get their ass kicked that bad. The bully ends up losing the whole ten grand and gets beat senseless on top of it.

Look, even if you are a Bible thumper who detests the sin of gay sex, gay people don't deserve the scorn people heap upon them. Even if you think your victims are characterless, offensive, and miserable blots upon the universe, please, don't bully them. Hate the sin, not the sinner. Jesus only attacked the money changers at the Temple, not the prostitutes.

Being bullied has so many consequences other than a split lip. Do unto others etc. Walk a mile in another's shoes. Just stop. You don't have to be a teen to be a bully, but you can stop the cycle no matter what age you are. Don't judge. Don't cast the first stone.

Think those sarcastic comments to your nephew about his hair or dress is going unnoticed. They're not. Give the kid a break, he's going through enough just trying to fit in.

Kudos to Google.